Because the "Layl" belongs to lovers in choreographer Ali Chahrour's musical play

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

UMS's production of Layl. A couple is embracing in this black and white photo.

Photo courtesy of UMS

The curtains opened and revealed a dark stage. It was silent, and over the course of a few minutes, lights started to show the audience fragments of what was on stage while keeping the illumination dim enough that you had to squint to see there were people with instruments tucked in the left corner of the stage.

Eventually, the light, though still low, revealed everyone on stage: Sharif Sehnaou on guitar, Hala Omran with a microphone, Aya Metwalli with a guitar, Simona Abdallah on drums, and above them all, Ali Chahrour lay on top of the speakers, one arm dangling and the other with a bouquet of dead flowers in his hand.

This is the entry to Layl (Night) by Ali Chahrour, presented at the Power Center in Ann Arbor on February 12.

Friday Five: Idle Ray, Adam Shead Quintet, KUZbeats, Corrupt Immortal, Paralyzer

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Five album/EP/singles covers from this week's Friday Five artists: Idle Ray, Adam Shead Quintet, KUZbeats, Corrupt Immortal, Paralyzer

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features indie-pop by Idle Ray, experimental jazz by Adam Shead, cinematic electronica by KUZbeats, weirdtronica by Corrupt Immortal, and instrumental thrash metal by Paralyzer.

On the Corner: A new book about Zingerman’s Deli details the Ann Arbor institution's satisfying history

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Micheline Maynard and her book Satisfaction Guaranteed

If you live in Ann Arbor long enough, you will inevitably be asked about three things: University of Michigan football, the Art Fairs, and Zingerman’s Deli.

Since 1982, people have flocked to Zingerman’s for top-of-the-line sandwiches and outstanding customer service. The story of how the business grew from a 1978 idea hatched between restaurant colleagues Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw into a nationally known business is covered in Micheline Maynard's new book, Satisfaction Guaranteed: How Zingerman’s Built a Corner Deli into a Global Food Community.

Maynard is a longtime journalist, educator, and frequent guest on both radio and TV. Her career includes writing as a columnist at The Washington Post, a contributor to The TakeoutMedium, and The Ann Arbor Observer, and as the author of The End of Detroit and The Selling of the American Economy: How Foreign Companies Are Remaking the American Dream

The genesis for the book began before the COVID pandemic.

The One Love Symposium aims to bring together public service professionals and the people they serve through conversation, music, and art

MUSIC PREVIEW

One Love Symposium 2022

The One Love Symposium (February 17-19) offers the community a chance to engage with public service professionals and help design a certification program to foster more effective communication between people in need or crisis and those who are called upon to help.

The symposium begins on Thursday, Feb. 17 at Ypsilanti District Library, Whittaker Road Branch. Local high school students will be presenting original musical and theatrical performances, as well as participating in a panel discussion with law enforcement, education, and healthcare professionals including Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, EMU Police Chief Matt Lige, Ann Arbor Pioneer High School Principal Tracey Lowder, and others.

The Symposium continues on Friday, Feb. 18 with a special virtual edition of Jazz Chat Live, hosted by Detroit Jazz Festival director Chris Collins and featuring a discussion with renowned jazz performers Marion Hayden, Sean Dobbins, Keyon Harrrold, and Marcus Elliot. Following the discussion will be a live performance by trumpeter Allen Denard at the Andy Theatre in Detroit.

Saturday, Feb. 19, the Symposium wraps up with a virtual panel discussion on alternative methods of gauging public opinion.

Friday Five: Chirp, Telesonic 9000, zagc, Evan Starr & Naxxar, Nadim Azzam

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Album and single covers collage. Artists featured: Chirp, Telesonic 9000, zagc, Evan Starr and Naxxar, and Nadim Azzam

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features a soulful jammer by Chirp, Kraftwerk-ian electronica by Telesonic 9000, a MEMCO mix by zagc, hip-hop-pop by Evan Starr and Naxxar, and a new video by Nadim Azzam.

 

The short documentaries "Boogie Woogie Express" and "Mr. B's Joybox Express" showcase Michigan piano titans

FILM & VIDEO

Mark "Mr. B" Braun and Bob Seeley, two masters of boogie-woogie piano, sit on the same piano bench while performing a tune together in front of a crowd at the Ann Arbor Art Fair

Image from an Ann Arbor News video.

On the surface, Boogie Woogie Express is a short film about piano player Bob Seeley, who was born in Detroit in 1928. But at 11-minutes long, there's not a ton of room for biography in this movie by Ypsilanti filmmaker Donald Harrison of 7CylindersStudio—yet it's the perfect amount of time for a quick and fun primer on the art of boogie-woogie piano. It's especially interesting to hear and see how boogie-woogie evolved into rock 'n' roll, with Seeley demonstrating the rhythmic differences between the two styles.

Shot in 16mm black and white film, Boogie Woogie Express premiered in 2007 at the Detroit Docs International Film Festival and on YouTube on February 1, 2022.

Because boogie-woogie piano is a niche community, it's no surprise that Seeley has performed with Ann Arbor's Mark "Mr. B" Braun on numerous occasions; the twosome even made a concert film together in 2009 called Back to Back Live. Both were heavily influenced by boogie-woogie giant Meade Lux Lewis and the duo covered his "Honky Tonk Train Blues" in the concert film.

Boogie Woogie Express is embedded below, along with a couple of videos of Seely and Braun performing together on a single piano—back to back, cheek to cheek—and Mr. B's Joybox Express, a 15-minute documentary from 2017 on Mr. B.

Friday Five: Lily Talmers, Daring Detour, Meg Brennan, Joshua Orange, Samn Johnson

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five album covers for January 28, 2022.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features electric solo folk from Lily Talmers, acoustic folk by Daring Detour, jazz by Meg Brennan, a techno/house mix by Joshua Orange, and experimental ambient and pop by Samn Johnson and friends.

 

UPDATED: Soul Message Band's "Live at Blue LLama" launches the club's new record label; album release concert announced

MUSIC

Soul Message Band, Live at Blue LLama CD back cover

This story was originally published on June 2, 2021. An album release concert is happening Saturday, January 29, 2022 at Blue LLama.

When you walk into Ann Arbor's Blue LLama Jazz Club, the first thing you notice isn't the sound booth. It's the curved long bar that starts near the front door, the ceiling's circle lights, or perhaps the textured sound-absorbing panels that line the back wall of the club. But the sound booth is outfitted with oodles of high-end audio and video gear, and Blue LLama is able to document every performance it chooses to with relative ease. Since the venue often books local artists, recording these shows will provide an invaluable resource covering the recent history of the Ann Arbor and Michigan jazz scenes.

But touring artists are also taking advantage of Blue LLama's high-tech capabilities.

The first live album recorded at the club came out last September on Denmark's venerable Storyville RecordsAdonis Rose Piece of Mind-Live at Blue LLama. The New Orleans drummer and Blue LLama artistic director Dave Sharp discussed making this record while the club was still being designed, and the results are an excellent mix of electric and acoustic jazz.

The club has now taken the next step and formed a label, Live at Blue LLama Records.

Talk, Talk, Talk: Zach Damon's "Ann Arbor Tonight" puts a local spin on the late-night TV chat format

FILM & VIDEO INTERVIEW

Zach Damon sits behind his desk on the set of the show his hosts, Ann Arbor Tonight. He's wearing a suit and tie, has a bit smile, and his black hair is slicked back. On his desk is a microphone, a coffee mug, pen and paper, and some University of Michigan football memorabilia.

Photo courtesy of Zach Damon.

At age 6, Zach Damon discovered his love of public speaking.

The future Ann Arbor Tonight host-producer was an ambassador for March of Dimes and spoke at different events in the early ‘90s, including the National Athletic Awards at Detroit’s Fox Theatre.

“I remember being in the audience because it was a pre-taped show and seeing the great energy and the great camaraderie of the business in general,” said Damon, who was born with cerebral palsy and grew up in Ann Arbor. “Everyone was so encouraging, and they’d say, ‘Zach, you can do anything you want to do, and if you want to work in media one day, then you can do that.’”

Damon also became inspired watching TV sportscaster Greg Gumbel and author-journalist Mitch Albom serve as hosts of the awards show. In that moment, he found his purpose.

“I remember seeing one of the broadcasters on stage doing his thing, getting the cues during the show, and then presenting," he said. "I remember at one point looking at the stage and saying to myself as a 5 or 6-year-old … I’d really like to be that person … and that’s where I felt most comfortable.”

Damon carried that dream with him throughout his teen years. By his junior year at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School, he aspired to host a late-night talk show. 

“I was talking to some buddies of mine who were in the film and video club, and I said, ‘It would be really neat to have a late-night show in Ann Arbor and call it Ann Arbor Tonight,” said Damon, who’s inspired by The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. “I was sitting on my bed, and they were like, ‘Yeah, whatever, Zach.’ I always have these very big ideas, but I really felt that they were possible if you just put the action toward it.”

In Transition: Jeffry Chastang's “Under Ceege” explores tension, change, and stasis between a son, a mother, and her community

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

Jonathan West and Sandra Love Aldridge in Purple Rose Theatre's production of Under Ceege. Scene: A theater stage is set up to look like a living room and kitchen blending together. A man is kneeling next to an older woman who is sitting in a La-Z-Boy-style chair. He is holding up a handheld mirror. They both look serious.

Jonathan West and Sandra Love Aldridge star in Purple Rose Theatre's production of Jeffry Chastang's Under Ceege. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

In June 2021, after the brutal murder of George Floyd and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, many theater artists began to wonder if they had done enough to combat inequality. American Theatre published responses of a sampling of theaters across the country, and the magazine’s editor, Rob Weinert-Kendt, wrote that artists “must not let this moment of potential for change … pass us by.”

The Purple Rose Theatre Company felt the call of the times, too. While founder Jeff Daniels was on Broadway as Atticus Finch, a white lawyer who defended victims of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird, he wrote to the theater’s supporters expressing pride in the Rose’s diversity record: 30% of productions featured a person of color, Daniels reported. Seven productions centered on a diverse community, and four were written by playwrights of color. “But it’s not enough,” Daniels added. 

So, the artistic director at the time, Guy Sanville, launched an initiative to seek out artists who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color. The theater started holding acting auditions in Detroit as well as at its home in the mostly white city of Chelsea. Sanville appointed Lynch Travis, an African-American actor and director who had been part of the Rose company, to be the chief diversity enrichment advisor.  

“When I was engaged by the Purple Rose to find more diverse voices to put on their stage, we invited 12 local playwrights,” says Travis. After Daniels and Sanville selected Jeffry Chastang’s Under Ceege, they asked Travis—who had been one of the first people to read the play—to direct it. 

Under Seege started previews on January 20, fully opens on January 28, and runs through March 12.